Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Peter Monkman wins first prize in BP Portrait Award 2009

Peter Monkman with the first prize in the BP Portrait Award 2009
Changeling 2
(oil on canvas, 1220 x 900 mm)

copyright the artist / photo copyright Katherine Tyrrell

The best compliment I've had so far is "It's strange!" said Peter Monkman last night shortly after he was awarded the prestigious £25,000 first prize in the BP Portrait Award 2009. His winning portrait is one of a series of portraits of his daughter Anna at different stages of her life.
I challenge the fixed notion of an idealised image of childhood and substitute it for a more unsettling, complex, representation that exists in its own right as a painting.
Peter Monkman
He developed the painting after taking a series of photographs of his daughter playing in woods in Brittany. The trees altered the light and the colour of her skin. The portrait works on two levels. It's both a record of his daughter on that day. At the same time it explores the concept of the child who is a changeling - a creature who in western folklore is really the offspring of fairies or elves and who has secretly been left in the place of a human child.

It's also one of those paintings which I found I liked a lot more when face to face with it than I did when I saw it as a photograph. The skin tones are really weird and fascinating at the same time - and I know Peter won't mind me saying that! It's also a fine example of somebody using photographs as a reference but without creating a photorealistic painting - which to my mind is to be applauded. I'm all for the art of painting!

Art historian and critic, Charlotte Mullins told me that the portrait breezed through the first two rounds without any problem but that it wasn't until the judges had got the 1,901 entries down to the final 100 that they began to realise the true quality of this portrait. Their choice of Changeling 2 for first prize was unanimous - which I gather is unusual.
It's incredibly bewitching and beguiling
Charlotte Mullins, Judge - BP Portrait Award 2009
I chatted to Peter Monkman (45) shortly before the prize-giving and we agreed that the really nice thing about the BP Portrait Awards is that all the artists who are invited know that they have won something! He's currently the Director of Art at Charterhouse School in Surrey and was telling me that the whole school was waiting to hear what he'd won so I can imagine what he must have been feeling like! (Well done to Charterhouse for their very fast update of their website!). His wife was texting all their family, friends and the school straight after the prizegiving ceremony. She told me they'd made it very easy for her by telling her to just text 1,2 or 3!

It's particularly nice to see another artist aged over 40 win the Award, following the change in the rules three years ago. Now aged 45, he'd had to give up entering the Award when he got to 40. Peter has previously had work included in the BP Portrait Exhibition in 1999, 2001, and 2003 - and it just goes to prove you should never give up!

Second Prize (£8,000): My tip for the prize Michael Gaskell must be a very disappointed man as this is the second time he's come second - both times to a first prizewinner who had been shortlisted for the first time. Nevertheless one of the judges told me that in another year his very beautiful portrait in egg tempera of his son Tom aged 17 would have won.
He was at the period in adolescence between boy and manhood and fleetingly suspended between both.

In spirit my painting owes most to Botticelli’s Portrait of a Young Man which is its primary inspiration and a painting I’ve always loved. The pose itself is more reminiscent of a number of portraits by Holbein, an artist I greatly admire.
I'm absolutely sure that Gaskell will win this prize at some point in the future as his portrait is exquisite - it's cetainly a contemporary equivalent of a Holbein or a Van Eyck. He won 2nd prize in 2003 and was commended in both 2001 and 1999.

(Left) Second prize - Michael Gaskell (b.1963) for Tom (egg tempera on board, 270 x 210 mm)
(Right) Third Prize - Annalisa Avancini (b.1973 ) for Manuel (oil on board, 1000 x 800)
artwork copyright the artists / photo copyright Katherine Tyrrell
Third Prize (£6,000): Charlotte Mullins told me that she really liked the way that Annalisa Avancini had managed to portray vulnerability in a man as it is something rarely attempted or achieved. Avancini, 35, is a painter and design teacher from Trento in Italy. Her work has been in numerous exhibitions throughout Europe and the United States. In 2006 she won First Prize in the 1st Contemporary Art Show 2006 at the Museum of the Americas, Miami and the Painting Prize for Young Artists 2007 at the Verona Fine Art Society.

The BP Young Artist Award for the work of an entrant aged between 18 and 30 (£5,000): Mark Jameson

Mark Jameson (b.1979) for Benfica Blue
(oil and acrylic on canvas, 1220 x 762 mm)
copyright the artist / photo copyright Katherine Tyrrell

Mark Jameson, 29, comes from County Durham and graduated from Sunderland University with a degree in Fine Art in 2003.

He painted his award winning portrait of his sister, Lyndsey at his parent's house in less than a month.
It was my intention to capture aspects of the subject’s persona, but also to convey this in a modern and relevant way. That said the acrid colours and an informal composition contribute to an accessible and honest account. This piece is not to my mind entirely finished. I hope that perhaps its technical shortcomings are in keeping with the character of the piece.
Jameson hopes to be able to become a full time artist in the future and is available for commissions.

Exhibition - Exhibitions for The BP Portrait Award 2009 and Travel Award 2008 can be seen at the National Portrait Gallery, London

The exhibition opens to the public tomorrow - 18th June - and continues until 20th September 2009, after which it will tour the UK. Admission is free.

I'm going back this morning to view it again minus all the people at last night's awards ceremony! On first viewing, it's looking very impressive and has a greater range of pieces in both size and approach than in recent years. I liked it a lot and I'm looking forward to being able to see all the portraits again.

Come back tomorrow to read my review of the exhibition and on Friday to read about the Travel exhibition - and who won the Travel Prize this year.

BP Portrait Award - The aim of the Portrait Award is to encourage artists to focus upon, and develop, the theme of painted portraiture within their work. It is now in its 30th year at the National Portrait Gallery and 20th year of sponsorship by BP. The BP Portrait Award is both a very prestigious and highly successful annual event which attarcts entries from all over the world. This year artists from 53 countries sent in entries.

The competition was judged from original paintings by this year’s panel;
  • James Holloway, Director, Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh
  • Charlotte Mullins, art historian and critic
  • Sandy Nairne, Director, National Portrait Gallery, London (Chair)
  • Des Violaris, Director, UK Arts and Culture, BP
  • Gillian Wearing, artist
and finally......

I'd just like to highlight what a pleasure it was listen to Sebastien Faulks' speech last night. I do hope they manage to get hold of it and to post it to the NPG website as it said some very cogent things about portraiture. I jotted down a few of them....but would now like the words which join them together!
the depiction of human beings is a primitive thing that artists have always done

it's a unique faculty of human consciousness

sense of self-awareness and awareness of the other

some people's faces never betray what's going on behind them

I dislike portraits which are anthropological and I love portraits where there is an engagement between the artist and the sitter

  • BP Portrait Award 2009 18th June and 20th September 2009
  • National Portrait Gallery, St Martin’s Place, London, WC2H 0HE Opening hours: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday, Sunday: 10am – 6pm (Gallery closure commences at 5.50pm) Late Opening: Thursday, Friday: 10am – 9pm (Gallery closure commences at 8.50pm)
Links to past posts about the BP Portrait Award on this blog:
Making a Mark reviews......


  1. What a wonderful, informative post, Katherine - it's such a joy to see all that talent (humbling though it may be), and I really enjoy portraits - especially those as beautifully done as these. Thank you for this.

  2. Thank you so much for this, I adore the BP Portrait Award exhibition. And to find out that they have changed the rules. I stopped submitting when I hit many missed opportunities! Watch out for me next year.

  3. Thanks so much for posting on this important portrait competition Katherine, and for including all those links as well. Very exciting. Would so love to see this exhibition in person, but this is the next best thing.

  4. Katherine, this is such a interesting and helpful post.
    The link at the bottom Portaiture - Resources for Artists is an invaluable source of information.

  5. Great review, thank you Katherine.

  6. Great Post-I have just got to get down there and see for myself!


COMMENTS HAVE BEEN CLOSED AGAIN because of too much spam.
My blog posts are always posted to my Making A Mark Facebook Page and you can comment there if you wish.

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.